September 13th, 2001


Postal service monopoly

A response to a coment by rafuzo in amanda42's journal.

....Last time I checked, when you send mail you aren't required to use [the Postal Service]..."

Actually, you are:

"On March 3, 1845, Congress passed a broad statute which set the parameters on the postal monopoly for years to come. The statute prohibited establishing a private express for the carriage of letters; prohibited sending a letter, carrying a letter and transporting a letter by private post, and penalized the sender, as well as the person who transported the letter."

FEDEX, UPS, and DHL are able to get around these restrictions because they offer specialized services (next day delivery, parcel shipment).

Read more about it in Carl Watner's excellent overview of the history of private competition with the U.S. mail, "Plunderers of the Public Revenue": Voluntaryism and the Mails, The Voluntaryist, Number 76, October 1995.

Private military services

(continuation of discussion with rafuzo)

Again, government is not the big bad boogeyman responsible for everything from wars and famine to genital herpes and why "Friends" isn't on at 8 and 9pm.

Wars: I seem to recall that our national governments had a small role to play in the instigation and promotion of WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, etc.

Famine: Much of the famine in Ethiopia and other African countries resulted from attempts by the socialist governments attempts to starve insurgents into submission.

Genital Herpes: Largely as a result of FDA regulations, it now costs roughly $500 million and takes over ten years to bring a new drug to market. Although not directly responsible for genital herpes, the barriers erected by these regulations (not to mention patent law) have dramatically slowed the rate of introduction of new drugs, including those that might prevent and/or cure genital herpes.

Friends not being on at 8 and 9 p.m.: copyright laws, as well as local cable monopolies, have probably slowed the offering of services that would allow viewers to watch whatever show they want, whenever they want to watch it. In my view, government is either the direct cause of the problem, or exacerbates it.

I agree with your point that, even without a government, someone needs to protect the U.S. from foreign attack, and that there is currently no alternative to the U.S. government to provide such defensive services. In addition, whatever it's flaws, the U.S. government's services have not yet deteriorated to the point that a significant portion of the citizenry would seriously consider alternatives.

However, economic and political basket cases, such as Afghanistan, Ruwanda, Haiti, and others, might be fruitful territories for an entrepreneurial, well-capitalized fighting force.

Several companies, such as Executive Outcomes, Sandline International, and Military Professional Resources, Inc. provide military services, ranging from consulting services, to logistics and infrastructure support, to fully armed and trained fighting outfits. To date, these companies have worked primarily under contract to other governments. For example, according to Thomas K. Adams, in his article The New Mercenaries and the Privatization of Conflict,

In March 1995 an Executive Outcomes team went to the aid of the
rebel-beleaguered Kono diamond mines in Sierra Leone. The force was
assembled and in action by April, taking just 11 days to drive the
rebels away from the capital and, using helicopter gunships, chase
them out of the diamonds fields. The most interesting aspect of all
this, however, is perhaps the method of payment. The chronically
impoverished government of Sierra Leone apparently paid for these
services by giving a company called Branch Energy the concession to
operate the Koidu diamond field (the Sierra Leone government retains a
60-percent ownership). Reputedly, Branch Energy is owned by Strategic
Resources Group, a British company based in the Bahamas, that in turn
owned Executive Outcomes. It seems that the firm was able to barter
its services for large shares of a client nation's natural resources
and commodities. According to a British government evaluation reported
by Inter Press Service: "On present showing, Executive Outcomes will
become ever richer and more potent, capable of exercising real power,
even to the extent of keeping military regimes in being. If it
continues to expand at the present rate, its influence in sub-Saharan
Africa could become crucial."[18]

Most of these companies are relatively small, and often collaborate closely with their home nation's military. However, one could imagine that a company which grew wealthy offering it's services to other country's governments, might one day decide to go freelance.
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